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There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about running with a weighted vest, what benefits can you expect?
A weighted vest is simply a vest with some weight, often sand, added to it. You can wear a weighted vest to make your current workout routine harder. Generally, you want your weighted vest for running to be about 4-10% of your body weight.
Some people question how useful this piece of running equipment can be but wearing a weighted vest while running can offer you some amazing benefits.
You do have to keep in mind that running can be hard on body parts like ankles, shins, knees, and back. Wearing a weighted vest while running increases the injury risk even more.
Some of these benefits may not outweigh the extra injury risk. Other workouts may also offer these extra benefits without the added injury risk. If you are injury-sensitive it may be smarter to not use a weighted vest, and even do a different workout than running.
1. Can help you lose more weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Running with a weighted vest can help with weight loss since using it generally requires more energy compared to running without one.
A big factor in how many calories you burn during a workout is your weight. To move around your body needs energy, measured in calories. The more weight you carry, the more energy you need to fuel movement.
For example a 155-pound (70 kg) person running for 30 minutes at 5.2 mph (8.4 kmh) burns around 330 calories.
On the other hand, a 185-pound (83 kg) person running for 30 minutes at 5.2 mph (8.4 kmh) burns around 393 calories.
There will likely be a difference in how much a weighted vest increases calorie-burning vs the same weight in body fat but that just shows how running with a weighted vest can benefit weight loss.
Another way workouts help you lose weight is by increasing your muscle mass which in turn helps with burning more energy with everything you do. Running with a weighted vest helps increase muscle mass too.
A weighted vest will likely not make or break your weight loss journey but even a small improvement will make a big difference over time.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
2. Helps you build more muscle
One of the benefits of running is that even though it is mainly a cardio workout, it also helps you build and preserve some muscle mass. Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
Some of the muscles you work out with running include:
Generally the more weight you have to move, the more muscle you will build with an exercise. That’s one of the reasons why people go to a gym instead of doing bodyweight exercises at home.
Running with a weighted vest will help you build more muscle mass in your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps compared to running without one.
If you are serious about building muscle you do generally want to choose weight lifting exercises over running.
3. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. Running with a weighted vest makes your heart beat faster and thus helps you strengthen your cardiovascular system more. This in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements without a weighted vest and build up from there.
4. Can improve athletic performance
This next benefit of a weighted vest doesn’t mean that you should wear one in your next 5k or other competitive running race. Instead wearing a weighted vest during your preparation training can help you improve performance without one.
Getting better at a certain sport or exercise isn’t necessarily done by doing these activities more. Cross-training which is training in a different sport can be useful.
One study suggests that jump height in turn is related to sprint performance (8). This means that running with a weighted vest can improve your performance in basically any sport that involves fast running.
One small study observed that runners who warmed up with a weighted vest had a higher peak running speed compared to runners who warmed up without one (9).
5. Improved bone density
This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.
The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long term.
Running with a weighted vest puts more pressure on your bones than running without one. This in turn will benefit your bone density in the long term (16).
Generally, workouts on land with a lot of jumping and strength training exercises are the best for improving bone density. Next, you have exercises that put less pressure on your bones like walking. Lastly, you have exercise in the water like swimming which will still benefit bone density but likely not as much as the other categories.
6. Makes your running more time-efficient
Another benefit of running with a weighted vest is that it can help you decrease the time it takes to get in a good workout. A good workout session isn’t necessarily about duration.
For example to build muscle you basically want to put enough strain on your muscles so muscle growth processes start. This doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time out of your day.
A more intense cardio workout can train your cardiovascular system in a shorter amount of time than one at a lower intensity.
Wearing a weighted vest while running can help with both of these things. This benefit of running with a weighted vest is especially useful if you have trouble finding enough time throughout your day to fit in a workout.
7. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
8. Improves coordination and balance
Although with some exercises more than others, you will likely challenge your balance and coordination skills with exercise. By doing this frequently you get better at it like with most skills. Many people forget to implement balance training into their workout routine but it is a helpful fitness component.
Stronger leg muscles generally reduce fall risk. Since running with a weighted vest can improve leg muscle mass it can be helpful for reducing fall risk.
The benefits of improved coordination don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination.
All in all, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one piece of equipment to your running routine.
One thing you need to remember is that even though there are benefits to wearing a weighted vest, your injury risk is generally also higher. This is mainly with exercises like running where you increase the weight your knees and back have to support but also with bodyweight exercises.
Especially if you are more of an exercise beginner you want to start with soft workouts without a weighted vest and build up from there.
Many weighted vests allow you to change up the weight. In that case, you can start with lower weights first and if that goes well, go up to higher weights.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that running with weights is not for you.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently.
If you like running with a weighted vest, great. If not, regular running or other weighted vest exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.